US election: EU pins hopes on Joe Biden victory

Bernd Riegert, Deutsche Welle (English), 01.11.2020

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US President Donald Trump has stretched and strained relations with many of the country's long-standing allies in Europe. Many EU politicians are hoping that a win for Joe Biden could turn things around.

The trans-Atlantic relationship has taken a beating over the four years of a Trump presidency. But Janis Emmanouilidis believes there is still hope for the partnership — if the Democratic candidate Joe Biden were to win the US presidential election on Tuesday.

"No one is naive, thinking that we will return to some form of status quo ante. You will not be able to return time to the good old days. So there will still be problems in the trans-Atlantic relations. But with respect to a Biden presidency, there are hopes that the situation could substantially improve," said Emmanouilidis, the director of the European Policy Centre, a Brussels think tank.

Emmanouilidis fears the EU-US relationship will deteriorate even further should Biden prove unable to oust Donald Trump from the White House.

"It is likely that he [Trump] will be putting more pressure on Europe in his second term than he has done in the first term. He's also identified Europe as a bigger evil than other global players," he told DW. [...]

Many in Brussels hope that a Biden presidency could help bring about this change, but Emmanouilidis is wary of illusions. He believes the rather gentle treatment Europe has given China so far would also not particularly please a Democratic president.

"One challenge could, for example, be that the new Biden administration says: 'We're ready to cooperate when it comes to multilateral issues, we're ready to cooperate on climate, we're ready to cooperate on the WTO. But we want you in exchange to be tough, for example, on China,'" he said. [...]

Observers believe most European government leaders would get along better with Biden, since he is more liberal-leaning and less rhetorically combative. The relationship between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in particular, has been marked by a total absence of chemistry, Emmanouilidis said. Poland and other Eastern European nations, especially those with populist leaders, have enjoyed better relations with the president.

Nevertheless, Emmanouilidis believes the EU will remain united in defending its interests against the US, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. "When it comes to the actual key issues, when it becomes really difficult, we've seen that the EU 27 [member states] up to now has been united, even though some member states might have, or tried to have, a more preferential relationship with the Trump administration," he said.

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